How soon can I start exercising after birth?
Answer by Abbie Jean Fitness
Possibly the number one question from postnatal mums is “When can I exercise again?” Frustratingly, the reason it is such a commonly asked question is that the answer is not so straightforward. It is very important to remember that as unique individuals, each Mum will have had very unique circumstances ante and postnatally, and subsequently, the (re)introduction of exercise will differ widely. So, while this short blog will summarise when you might be able to get that workout in again, it is essential to note that this is not an exact science and each Mum will have their unique journey back into exercise.
There are two stages of ‘Postnatal’:
In terms of exercise, the term “postnatal” is split into two stages.
Stage One = The period of time between delivery and medical sign-off.
The sign-off is confirmation from a doctor that Mum is now safe to exercise and generally occurs at your 6 week check-up. The advice differs according to the type of delivery, and is generally this:
- Natural Birth: safe to exercise after 6 weeks.
- Caesarean: safe to exercise after 12 weeks.
I also recommend that Mum’s see a women’s health physio, pelvic health specialist who are able to more fully assess your body and provide specific guidance on your return to exercise.
Stage Two = 12 months after childbirth.
On average, it takes this length of time for a woman’s body to fully recover. It is for this reason that being cautious at the start of your exercise journey is vital.
While it may be advised that you can return to exercise after 6 or 12 weeks, it is essential to listen to your body and respond appropriately. I can’t stress enough that it is so important that you don’t just jump back into your pre-pregnancy workouts! In most cases, women should ease back into a regular, but gentle routine, led by properly trained and qualified postnatal instructors.
This will focus on re-gaining strength, stability and motor skills (e.g. agility and co-ordination) that are likely to have been affected by pregnancy and childbirth. Particular focus might want to be made on pelvic floor work, balance, safe core training and maintaining flexibility.
Postnatal Barriers to Exercise:
In some instances, however, further medical advice may need to be sought before returning to exercise in the 6 or 12 week average. Among others, some barriers to exercise could include:
- Pelvic floor trauma / Sensation loss / Dysfunction / Prolapse
- Involution of the uterus
- Secondary postpartum haemorrhage
- Pelvic girdle pain
- Abdominal muscle separation
- Extreme fatigue
In most cases, with the right training program, even the above contraindications can be worked around. Just be sure to tailor your workouts around these medical issues and keep checking in with your doctor or women’s health physio.
The most valuable thing to remember when getting back into exercise is that this period of time will not last forever. Your body has been through trauma and is in a delicate state.
For the first 12 months, generally, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Think of postnatal exercise as thanking your body for what it has given you and look particularly at re-gaining rather than punishing.